- Sermon Notes
Who’s on Trial
In the book of Luke we have now come to the night on which Jesus was arrested by the Jewish leaders. He was taken in the early hours of the morning before Caiaphas the high priest who brought many false witnesses against him in order to find cause to put Him to death.
Finally the high priest said to Him, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask a question, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” And they responded, “Are You the Son of God, then?” And He said to them, “Yes, I am.”
“What further need do we have of testimony?” Caiaphas shouted as he tore his robe, “Behold, you have heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” And they answered and said, “He is deserving of death!”
When morning comes, they bind Jesus and lead Him away and deliver Him up to Pontius Pilate, the governor. Then, from Luke 23:1, Jesus goes on trial before the Roman governor.
Before we look at what happens at this trial, we should step back and look at what’s happening from a larger perspective. It’s ironic and paradoxical that the judge of all the earth would Himself be on trial. But this is exactly right.
What’s happening is that God sent His Son as the hope of the world; light into darkness, the Way, the Truth, and the Life to demonstrate the love of God, to redeem a world broken by sin, and to reach out His hand to an obstinate and rebellious people. “God demonstrates His love toward us in that Christ died for us when we were sinners.”
But each of us must decide what we will do with Jesus. God presents His Son and it may appear as if He is on trial, but in reality, Pontius Pilate is on trial, the Jewish religious leaders are on trial and in actuality, we are on trial. In the same way, God sent His Son to bear witness to the truth. Truth does not change; we must decide what we will do with the truth.
I. It’s Personal; What will You do?
- Pontius Pilate had never met Jesus before, but he had probably heard about Him.
- By this time Jesus had already developed a reputation for confronting the Jewish leaders which probably pleased Pontius Pilate.
- So Pilate would not have been predisposed against Him, but would have wanted to give him a fair trial.
- It would help us to know a little history here. The Jewish leaders and Pontius Pilate weren’t exactly on the best of terms. In fact, there had been some serious confrontations between them.
- Pontius Pilate was known as a man of strength and had a reputation for being quite severe.
- But these Jews were difficult to rule. One time he brought some Roman flags into Jerusalem and they were so offended they began an “occupy Jerusalem” riot. He threatened to slaughter them, but they simply bared their necks in an open challenge and Pilate had to back down.
- He offended them again when he hung some Roman shields in the Antonio fortress. They complained to Caesar Tiberius himself and Pilate received a strong rebuke from Tiberius.
- Though Jesus stands before Pilate, Pilate is actually the one who is on trial.
A. Who is standing before whom?
- This conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate is absolutely amazing when you ask the question, “Who is standing before whom?”
- At one point when Jesus doesn’t answer one of Pilate’s questions Pilate responds…
John 19:10, “You do not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
- Maybe this would be a good place to ask the question, who was responsible for the death of Jesus?
- Throughout history many have persecuted the Jews because they believed that the Jews killed Jesus, the Messiah. But several scriptures reveal a greater truth that is important for everyone to understand…
John 10:18, “No one has taken My life away from Me, but I lay it down on My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
- This scene unfolding between Jesus and Pilate reveals that God is the One who is accomplishing His purpose, the redeeming of men who are lost in their sins.
B. Don’t stay stuck in the middle
- Pilate is in a predicament. You might say he’s stuck in the middle. In his heart he knows that Jesus is innocent.
- His wife even sent a message to him…
Matthew 27:19, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in the dream because of Him.”
- It’s interesting how God can use dreams, by the way. There are reports coming from around the world that God is speaking to Muslim people in their dreams and they are coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
- But Pontius Pilate is pressured by the Jews to crucify Jesus. He knows they are wrong, but he’s stuck. He can’t stand up and do the right thing.
- In fact, at one point they pull out a trump card.
John 19:12, As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar;”
- This is a serious accusation. They are now bringing up a rather sticky problem. Pilate was appointed to his position as governor by a man named Sejanus, at one time the second most powerful man in all of Rome. Only Caesar Tiberius himself had more power.
- But Sejanus attempted to assassinate Caesar Tiberius and was arrested and executed. The Caesar then issued an order to investigate everyone considered a friend of Sejanus. Pilate’s past was coming back to haunt him.
- The Jews had a trump card over Pilate and he knew it.
- Many people can relate to Pilate’s predicament. In their heart they know that Jesus is the righteous Son of God, but they’re afraid of what others might think and so they’re pressured by wanting the approval of others.
John 12:42-43, Many even of the rulers believed in Him, but they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they love the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
C. We are the ones to be responding
- At one point Pilate learns that Jesus is from Galilee so he decides to send Him to Herod, hoping to not have to take responsibility for this decision.
- So Pilate sent Jesus to Herod where He was brought through yet another trial. It’s interesting because when Jesus stands before Herod, He refuses to answer any of his questions.
- But Herod was looking forward to having Jesus stand before him because he was hoping to see a miracle. Now that’s interesting because it’s just like so many people today.
- They put God on trial and if He doesn’t do what they think He should do, then they withhold their allegiance and their faith.
- Verses 8-9, Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing.
Illus – I remember when I was in Bible College and working as a waiter at a hotel. One day one of the other servers said, “Rich, you’re in Bible school right?” “Yes,” I answered. “Say something religious,” he said. I thought immediately about Jesus standing before Herod…
- Herod wanted Jesus to respond to him. We are the ones who are to respond to God. We are to believe His Word and respond accordingly.
Illus – It’s like when a teenager wants his parents to do what he says, and then when he doesn’t get it responds, “The problem here, Dad, is that you don’t trust me.” To which we should say, “The question is not whether I trust you, but whether you trust me.”
Matthew 12:39, “an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and yet no sign will be given but the sign of Jonah the prophet;”
- In other words, Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God, what more could people ask for than that?
II. The Truth Will Set You Free
- The gospel of John gives us another look at this trial before Pontius Pilate. There Jesus tells Pilate that He is indeed a king, but that His kingdom is not of this world.
- Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18:37
- Pilate then responded famously, “What is truth?” He had never asked a more important question in his life.
A. Truth is something to live
- “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Truth is more than the sum of right answers.
- Truth is not just something to have, but something, first and above all else, to be.
- God’s desire is not merely to inform us, but to transform us; not to just fill us with truths, but to make us true. This is because Truth is a person; Jesus Christ, the living Son of God.
John 14:6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
John 8:31-32, “If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
- We’re not just set free because we understand some information;
Illus – You could do a research paper on truth and be changed not at all. We need a relationship with the Truth. He abides with us in a personal relationship. He transforms as so that we might be made like Him as we worship Him in spirit and in truth.
B. We’re related to Barabbas, too
- One of the intriguing parts of this story has to do with this man named Barabbas. Bar means son and abba means father; or, “son of the father.”
- Pilate is presenting Barabbas as a way of getting out of the difficulty of having to crucify Jesus. He thinks there would be no way they would want Barabbas released since he was such a notorious prisoner.
- But the crowd would have nothing to do with it. They were incited to riot by the Jewish leaders and they demanded that Barabbas be released.
- But Barabbas actually becomes a picture of all of us. Barabbas was a notorious sinner and deserved death, but Jesus died in his place.
- Jesus died in place of Barabbas, and Barabbas lived because of Jesus’s death. That’s the message of the cross, that’s the message of the gospel, and that is the Truth setting us free.
2 Corinthians 5:21, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Illus – James Stewart of Scotland,
Luke 23:1-25 NASB